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A good NATPE. Record international crowd.

Credit the fading recession, credit the new Clinton regime, or credit the record international attendance. The fact is that this year's NATPE was a great success.

There was enthusiasm that simply permeated those vast spaces of the Moscone Center and energized the 10, 150 registered conventioneers. Exhibitors reported brisk business for all kinds of shows, from the batch of new talk programs and reality shows to various types of game shows, series and, of course, the one-hour action entries.

It was, in other words, a first-rate, active bouncy trade shindig, staged in pleasant surroundings, in a welcoming, although expensive city, with a truly international flavor, framed by a multitude of interesting and to-the-point symposiums.

One can tell the success or failure of a NATPE simply by reading the faces of the participants, by the smiles, the energy, the crowds in the booths and in the isles. This NATPE had all of that.

So it's easy to overlook the fact that, among all those thousands of programs, new and old, syndicators weren't exactly outdoing themselves when it came to innovation and quality. There was little to set the house on fire. The product was plentiful but not very innovarive. New wine from old grapes. More of the same, well done, often very well produced shows but short of new ideas.

There were trends of course. The most important one didn't have to do with the shows themselves, but with the record-breaking attendance of international buyers and producers, some intent on making some kind of dent in the American independent market, be it only via documentaries or other easily-dubbed shows. Those who came to buy came a way somewhat disappointed with the lack of exciting choices. But buying wasn't their only purpose. The Europeans particularly, came looking forco-production partners, and those conversations went well. with both sides basically interested in coming to some sort of arrangement.

For the record, 88 international companies attended and the number of international attendees rose very close to 1500. This year. more than ever. the Europeans (specifically the French and the Germans) clustered in single booths, which made them more accessible (and more crowded) than ever before.

But international or not, NATPE is still an American show, where American industry issues are aired. And they were certainly thrashed out to a fare-thee-well.

The big news, of course, was the succession of Bruce Johansen to the NATPE presidency, succeeding the well-liked Phil Corvo, NATPE's moving spirit since 1982. Johansen let it be known that he favored the idea of giving international broadcasters access to NATPE membership, which so far has been denied to them.

Ervin Duggan, the FCC Commissioner, spoke to the mere be rs of INTV, merging its convention for the first time with that of NATPE. Duggan stunned his audience by letting them know that, under the Clinton administration, television would no longer be considered "just a business" and that the FCC expected television to live up to its social contract with the audience. Duggan was blunt and to-the-point. "Clean up your act, live up to the FCC rules, or the government will do it for you," he warned.

Just about everything that fascinates, worries and divides syndicators and independent stations came up. The arguments, reflecting current industry conditions and sometime shotly debated, ranged from must-carry and Fin-Syn to cable and the technical revolution now clearly insight.

On the floor, animation blossomed as usual and in great volume. The talk show hosts circulated, smiled and posed. Old names and new - Les Brown, Vicki, Beatrice Berry, Jerry springer and some 36 others, new and already well established, underscored that talk is both popular - and cheap to produce.

NATPE made it clear, if only by the volume of discussion, that not all the affiliates are happy and that quire a few would like to preempt the network fare with more attractive syndicated shows, a procedure against which The Blair Company warned, arguing that it involved the possible loss of access revenue. Again and again, the stations were advised to strengthen their identity with the audience.

And so it was a lively, profitable and encouraging NATPE, a very visible reversal of bad times. It pointed to a good year ahead.
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Copyright 1993, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:National Association of Television Program Executives
Publication:Video Age International
Date:Feb 1, 1993
Words:701
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